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Werner Erhard in 2010
|Born|| September 5, 1935 |
Patricia Fry, September 26, 1953–1960 (divorced)
Werner Erhard in 2010
|Born|| September 5, 1935 |
Patricia Fry, September 26, 1953–1960 (divorced)
Werner Hans Erhard:7 (born John Paul Rosenberg, September 5, 1935) is an author of transformational models and applications for individuals, groups, and organizations. He has written about integrity, performance and leadership and has lectured at Harvard, Yale, USC, the University of Rochester and the Rotterdam School of Management.
Erhard was first known for "The est Training" (1971–1983) and "The Forum" (1984–1991), which were offered to the public through the companies Erhard Seminars Training Inc. (1971–1975), est, an educational corporation (1975–1981), and Werner Erhard & Associates (WEA, 1981–1991). Erhard, along with John Denver, Robert W. Fuller, and others, founded The Hunger Project in 1977.
In 1991, Erhard retired from business, sold his then-existing intellectual property to a group of his former employees (who formed Landmark Education).
John Paul Rosenberg was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 5, 1935.:6 His father was a small restaurant owner who left Judaism for a Baptist mission before joining his wife in the Episcopal Church:6 where she taught Sunday School.:6 They agreed that their son should choose his religion for himself when he was old enough.:6 He chose to be baptized in the Episcopal Church, served there for eight years as an acolyte:6 and has been an Episcopalian ever since.
He graduated from Norristown High School, Norristown, Pennsylvania, in June 1953, along with his future wife Patricia Fry.:30 Rosenberg married Fry on September 26, 1953:4 and they had four children together.:51 In 1960, he left Fry and their children in Philadelphia, traveled to Indianapolis with June Bryde:4 and changed his name to Werner Hans Erhard. Rosenberg chose his new name from Esquire magazine articles he read about then West German economics minister Ludwig Erhard and the philosopher and physicist Werner Heisenberg.:57–58 June Bryde changed her name to Ellen Virginia Erhard.:382–383 The renamed Erhards moved to St. Louis, where Erhard took a job as a car salesman.:383 His wife and children were forced to rely on welfare and help from family and friends, and after five years without contact, Patricia Rosenberg divorced Erhard for desertion and remarried.:383
The Erhards moved into an apartment in Sausalito and had a second daughter, Adair, on December 27, 1964.
After a period as a car salesman,:383 in 1961 Erhard began selling correspondence courses in the Midwest, then California, and eventually moved to Spokane, Washington.:85 After a few months, he took a job with Encyclopædia Britannica's "Great Books" program and was soon promoted to area training manager. In January 1962, Erhard switched to the Parents Magazine Cultural Institute, a division of W.R.Grace & Co.:112 In the summer of 1962, he was promoted to the position of territorial manager for California, Nevada, and Arizona, and moved to San Francisco; and in the spring of 1963 to Los Angeles.:82–106 In January 1964, Parents promoted Erhard and transferred him to Arlington, Virginia as a southeast manager.:94 In August 1964, Erhard resigned his position in Arlington over a dispute with the company president and returned to his previous position in San Francisco.:107–114 In the next few years, Erhard brought on as staff at Parents many people who would become important in est, including Elaine Cronin, Gonneke Spits and Laurel Scheaf. In 1967, Erhard was promoted to vice president.:117–138
During his time in St. Louis, Erhard read two books which were to have a marked effect on him: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (1937) and Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (1960).:383 When a member of his staff at Parents Magazine introduced him to the ideas of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, both key figures in the human potential movement, his interests became more focused on personal fulfillment rather than sales success. After his move to Sausalito, he attended talks by Alan Watts, a notable Western interpreter of Zen Buddhism, who introduced him to the distinction between mind and self; Erhard subsequently became close friends with Watts.:117–138 In William Bartley's biography, Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, the Founding of est (1978), Bartley quotes Erhard as acknowledging Zen as the essential contribution that "created the space for" est.:146,147 Bartley details Erhard's connections with Zen beginning with his extensive studies with Alan Watts in the mid 1960s:118 and quotes Erhard as acknowledging:
Of all the disciplines that I studied, practiced, learned, Zen was the essential one. It was not so much an influence on me, rather it created space. It allowed those things that were there to be there. It gave some form to my experience. And it built up in me the critical mass from which was kindled the experience that produced est.:118
Erhard attended the Dale Carnegie course in 1967. He was sufficiently impressed with it to make his staff attend the course as well, and began to think about developing a course of his own. Over the following years, Erhard continued to investigate a wide range of other new religious and therapeutic movements, including Encounter, Transactional Analysis, Enlightenment Intensive, Subud and Scientology.:383 Erhard read L. Ron Hubbard extensively, and some Scientology terms overlap with terms from est. Erhard later said, "I have a lot of respect for L. Ron Hubbard and I consider him to be a genius and perhaps less acknowledged than he ought to be.":383 William Bartley, in his biography of Werner Erhard, recounts that he asked Erhard to describe the differences between est and Scientology; Erhard replied:
The essential difference between est and Scientology is two-fold. The first has to do with Scientology’s emphasis on survival and its idea that the purpose of life is survival. est sees the purpose of life as wholeness or completion – truth – not survival.
The other main difference between est and Scientology lies in the treatment of knowing. Ron Hubbard seems to have no difficulty in codifying the truth and in urging people to believe it. But I suspect all codifications, particularly my own. In presenting my own ideas, I emphasize their epistemological context. I hold them as pointers to the truth, not as the truth itself.
I don’t think anyone ought to believe the ideas that we use in est. The est philosophy is not a belief system and most certainly ought not to be believed. In any case, even the truth, when believed, is a lie. You must experience the truth, not believe it.:151,157
In 1970, Erhard became involved in Mind Dynamics.:383 Founded by Alexander Everett, Mind Dynamics seminars included teachings based on Rosicrucianism and Theosophy, as well as the methods of Edgar Cayce and José Silva, founder of Silva Mind Control.:383–384 Erhard subsequently trained as a Mind Dynamics instructor with Everett, and took over the teaching of Mind Dynamics classes in San Francisco and soon also Los Angeles.:136–137 The two directors of Mind Dynamics (William Penn Patrick and Alexander Everett) eventually invited him into their partnership, but Erhard rejected the offer, saying he would rather develop his own seminar program – "est", which he announced on September 13, 1971, at his last Mind Dynamics course in San Francisco.:384
"est", short for Erhard Seminars Training, also Latin for "It is," offered intensive communications and self-empowerment workshops.:384 Their purpose was "to transform one's ability to experience living so that the situations one had been trying to change or had been putting up with, clear up just in the process of life itself.":384 Between 1971 and 1984, 700,000 people enrolled in the est training. Participants at est workshops had to adhere to strict rules and were given designated breaks for bathroom visits and one meal break.:384 They were not permitted to smoke, eat or drink during the workshop.:384 Sessions lasted from 9:00 am to midnight or the early hours of the morning, with one meal break.:384 Participants were frequently referred to as "estholes"; they had to hand over wristwatches and were not allowed to take notes, or to speak unless called upon, in which case they had to wait for a microphone to be brought to them.:384 The second day of the workshop featured the "danger process".:384 Groups of participants were brought onto the stage and confronted by est staff, trying to provoke a reaction; afterwards, participants were asked to "imagine that they were afraid of everyone else and then that everyone else was afraid of them.":384 This was followed by lectures on the third and fourth days, covering topics such as reality and the nature of the mind, ending with the conclusion that "what is, is and what ain't, ain't," and that "true enlightenment is knowing you are a machine.":384 Participants were told they were perfect the way they were and were asked to indicate by a show of hands if they "had gotten it".:384
While Erhard led all the early est courses himself, by the mid-1970s there were ten trainers trained by him.:384 Once est proved to be successful, Erhard contacted his first wife and the children he had left behind; both his ex-wife Pat and his own younger siblings subsequently took jobs in the est organization.:384 Further est centers opened in Los Angeles, Aspen, Honolulu and New York, and many other cities, and est was enthusiastically endorsed by celebrities such as John Denver and Valerie Harper.:384
In the early 1970s, the est Foundation became the Werner Erhard Foundation with the aim of "providing financial and organizational support to individuals and groups engaged in charitable and educational pursuits – research, communication, education, and scholarly endeavors in the fields of individual and social transformation and human well-being". Among its activities was an annual lecture series in physics, a science in which Erhard was especially interested. These lectures attracted leading names in theoretical physics of the era, including Stephen Hawking, Leonard Susskind and Richard Feynman.
In the nearly 20 years of its existence, the Werner Erhard Foundation supported these charitable organizations and projects:
Also during that period Erhard developed and presented a series of seminars, broadcast via satellite that included interviews with contemporary thinkers in science, economics, sports and the arts on topics such as creativity, performance, and money. The interviews were designed not to present particular views, but to inquire into the commitments, visions and influences at the source of their work. People interviewed in this diverse series included Mike Wallace, Milton Friedman, Alice Cahana, Robert Reich, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Senator Daniel Inouye.,
In October 1987, Werner Erhard hosted a televised broadcast with top sports coaches John Wooden, Red Auerbach, Tim Gallwey and George Allen to discuss principles of coaching across all disciplines. They sought to identify distinctions found in coaching, regardless of the subject being coached. Jim Selman moderated the discussion and in 1989 he documented the outcome in an article called “Coaching and the Art of Management.”
On February 1, 1991, some of the employees of Werner Erhard and Associates purchased its assets, licensed the right to use its intellectual property and assumed some of its liabilities, paying $3 million and committing to remitting up to $15 million over the following 18 years in licensing fees. Shortly afterwards the new owners established Landmark Education.
Presentations that evolved from the "Forum" continue to take place today[update] in major cities in the US and worldwide as the "Landmark Forum" under the auspices of Landmark Worldwide.
Throughout his career Erhard has lectured at universities and organizations around the world. The Harvard Business Review On Change states "We are indebted to numerous philosophers, scholars, and thinkers who have inquired into the nature of being, especially Werner Erhard. "Transformation and Its Implications for Systems-Oriented Research," lecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Massachusetts, April 1977 and "The Nature of Transformation," Oxford University Union Society, Oxford, England, September 1981" and "Numerous writers have grappled with the relationship of past, present and future in the workplace, especially Werner Erhard. "Organizational Vision and Vitality: Forward from the Future," Academy of Management, San Francisco, California, August 1990.
After retiring from Werner Erhard & Associates, Erhard made a few public appearances. One of these was on Larry King Live in an episode titled, "Whatever Happened to Werner Erhard?" via satellite from Moscow, Russia on December 8, 1993. As of 2001[update] Erhard maintained a residence with Gonneke Spits in Georgetown, Cayman Islands. During this time he worked in the area of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland with author Peter Block. He attended an event on May 11, 2004 at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University entitled "From Thought to Action: Growing Leaders in a Changing World". The event was in honor of a friend, Warren Bennis, who had taken Erhard Seminars Training and then consulted for Werner Erhard and Associates.
In later years Erhard devoted his time to academic investigation, and presentations in writing and lectures of his ideas. In 2007, he presented a talk exploring the link between integrity, leadership, and increased performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for Public Leadership, led a course on integrity at the 2007 MIT Sloan School of Management’s SIP (Sloan Innovation Period), and spoke at the Harvard Law School program on Corporate Governance. In 2008, he took part in a presentation on integrity at DePaul University and co-led a course on leadership at the Simon School of Business. In 2009 he presented Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological Model at the Gruter Institute Squaw Valley Conference: Law, Behavior & the Brain.
He presented his work on "Why We Do What We Do: A New Model Providing Actionable Access to the Source of Performance." at the Kennedy Center For Public Leadership at Harvard University in December 2009 
Erhard was selected to contribute to the 2011 Harvard University publication The Handbook for Teaching Leadership: Knowing, Doing and Being, edited by the Dean of Harvard Business School, Nitin Nohria and HBS leadership professors Scott Snook and Rakesh Khurana. In their introduction the editors write, “Erhard, Jensen and Granger anchor this collection by taking dead aim at the BE component. In a highly provocative chapter titled 'Creating Leaders', this eclectic group of scholars argues for adopting a decidedly ontological approach to leadership education...For these authors, integrity, authenticity, and being committed to something bigger than oneself form the base of ‘the context for leadership,’ a context that once mastered, leaves one actually being a leader. It is not enough to know about or simply understand these foundational factors, but rather by following a rigorous, phenomenologically based methodology, students have the opportunity to create for themselves a context that leaves them actually being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as their natural self-expression."
Erhard's ontological work has been a topic for discussion by academics. At the 2013 Philosophy of Communication Division National Communication Association Conference in Washington D.C., Bruce Hyde and Andrew Kopp presented their paper, "Connecting Philosophy and Communication; A Heideggerian Analysis of the Ontological Rhetoric of Werner Erhard," in which they state "We are not suggesting here that Heidegger’s philosophical writings were the source of Erhard’s ideas. We see both men as being at work in the same field, sharing a view toward language and its relationship to Being."
The validity of Erhard's work and his motivations have had skeptics and critics, as well. Psychiatrist Marc Galanter described Erhard as "a man with no formal experience in mental health, self help, or religious revivalism, but a background in retail sales." Michael Zimmerman, Philosophy Professor at Tulane University, described Erhard as "a kind of artist, a thinker, an inventor, who has big debts to others, borrowed from others, but then put the whole thing together in a way that no one else had ever done." Philosophy professor Robert Todd Carroll referred to est as a "hodge-podge of philosophical bits and pieces culled from the carcasses of existential philosophy, motivational psychology." Social critic John Bassett MacCleary called Erhard "a former used-car salesman" and est "just another moneymaking scam." NYU psychology professor Paul Vitz noted that est "was primarily a business" and that its "style of operation has been labeled as fascist."
In 1991, Werner Erhard “... vanished amid reports of tax fraud (which proved false and won him $200,000 from the IRS) and allegations of incest (which were later recanted).”  The March 3, 1991 60 Minutes broadcast of these allegations was later removed by CBS due to factual inaccuracies. On March 3, 1992, Erhard sued CBS, San Jose Mercury News reporter John Hubner and approximately twenty other defendants for libel, defamation, slander, and invasion of privacy, as well as conspiracy. On May 20, 1992, Erhard filed for dismissal of his own case and sent checks for $100 to each of the defendants, covering their filing fees in the case. Erhard later told Larry King in an interview that he dropped the suit after receiving legal advice telling him that in order to win it, it would not be sufficient to prove that CBS knew the allegations were false, but that he would also need to prove that CBS acted with malice. Erhard stated to King that his family members (as reported in Time Magazine) had since retracted their allegations, which had been made under pressure from CBS, and that accusations of tax evasion aired in the program were "misunderstandings" that were in the process of being resolved.
Erhard's daughters later retracted the allegations of sexual abuse they had made against their father. Celeste Erhard, one of the daughters featured in the CBS program, subsequently sued journalist John Hubner and the San Jose Mercury News seeking US$2 million. Celeste Erhard accused the newspaper of having "defrauded her and invaded her privacy". She asserted that she had exaggerated information, had been promised a book deal to be co-authored with Hubner for revenue of $2 million, and stated on the record that the articles and her appearance on CBS television's 60 Minutes were to get publicity for the book. Celeste Erhard did not dispute the accuracy of the quotes in the newspaper. The case was dismissed in August 1993, the judge ruling that the statute of limitation had expired and that Celeste Erhard "had suffered no monetary damages or physical harm and that she failed to present legal evidence that Hubner had deliberately misled her."
The video of the CBS 60 Minutes program was subsequently withdrawn from the market. Suzanne Snider in The Believer, May 2003, reported that it "was filled with so many factual discrepancies that the transcript was made unavailable with this disclaimer: 'This segment has been deleted at the request of CBS News for legal or copyright reasons.'"
In 1992 a court ruled that "The Forum" had not caused any “mental injuries” to Stephanie Ney. The court entered a default judgment of $380,000 against Werner Erhard – in absentia:262 because Erhard had not personally received the notice to appear and was not present.
In 1993, Erhard filed a wrongful disclosure lawsuit against the IRS, asserting that IRS agents had incorrectly and illegally revealed to the media details of information from his tax returns. In the first half of April 1991, IRS spokesmen were widely quoted, alleging that "Erhard owed millions of dollars in back taxes, that he was transferring assets out of the country, and that the agency was suing Erhard", branding Erhard a "tax cheat". On April 15, the IRS was reported to have placed a lien of $6.7 million on personal property belonging to Erhard. In his wrongful disclosure lawsuit against the IRS Erhard stated that he had never refused to pay taxes that were lawfully due, and in September 1996 he won the suit. The IRS settled the lawsuit with Erhard, paying him $200,000 in damages. The IRS officials admitted that media reports quoting them on Erhard's tax liabilities had been false; however, they took no action to have the media correct these statements.
A private investigator quoted in the Los Angeles Times stated that by October 1989, Scientology had collected five filing cabinets worth of materials about Erhard, many from ex-members of est who had joined Scientology, and that Scientology was clearly in the process of organizing a "media blitz" aimed at discrediting Erhard. According to Harry Rosenberg, Erhard's brother, "Werner made some very, very powerful enemies. They really got him."
A 2012 Financial Times article said that Erhard’s influence "extends far beyond the couple of million people who have done his courses: there is hardly a self-help book or a management training programme that does not borrow some of his principles." Erhard and his programs have been cited as having a significant cultural impact on America in the 1970s. Erhard’s teachings have influenced the field of professional “Life Coaching,” although Erhard was not considered to be a coach. The late Thomas Leonard, who was the founder of Coach U, the International Coach Federation, Coachville and the International Association of Coaches was an est employee in the 1980‘s.
Paul Fireman (former CEO of Reebok), Peter Block, leadership expert Warren Bennis, and economist Michael Jensen, spoke positively of Erhard. Tiger Woods' father cited est as helping him become a better parent. Over the years, Werner Erhard’s philosophy has been cited in helping to promote a multi-billion-dollar personal growth industry based on Erhard's original concepts.
Along with John Denver and the Oberlin College president, Robert W. Fuller, Erhard co-founded a non-profit organization, The Hunger Project. In 1977 Erhard authored the Hunger Project Source Document, subtitled, “The End of Starvation: Creating an Idea Whose Time Has Come”.
In 1991 the group that later formed Landmark Education purchased the intellectual property of Werner Erhard. In 1998, Time Magazine published an article about Landmark Education and its historical connection to Werner Erhard. The article stated that: "In 1991, before he left the U.S., Erhard sold the 'technology' behind his seminars to his employees, who formed a new company called the Landmark Education Corp., with Erhard's brother Harry Rosenberg at the helm." Landmark Education states that its programs have as their basis ideas originally developed by Erhard, but that Erhard has no financial interest, ownership, or management role in Landmark Education. In Stephanie Ney v. Landmark Education Corporation (1994), the courts determined Landmark Education Corporation did not have successor-liability to Werner Erhard & Associates, the corporation whose assets Landmark Education purchased.
According to Pressman in Outrageous Betrayal: Landmark Education further agreed to pay Erhard a long-term licensing fee for the material used in the Forum and other courses. Erhard stood to earn up to $15 million over the next 18 years.":253–255 However, Arthur Schreiber's declaration of May 3, 2005 states: "Landmark Education has never paid Erhard under the license agreements (he assigned his rights to others)." 
In 2001, New York Magazine reported that Landmark Education's CEO Harry Rosenberg said that the company had bought outright Erhard's license and his rights to the business in Japan and Mexico. From time to time Erhard consults with Landmark Education.
The Barbados Group represents a "self-selected group of scholars, consultants and practitioners" which aims to build an ontological paradigm of performance in organizations. The group and its main publication-vehicle SSRN both have at their head Michael Jensen, Emeritus Professor at the Harvard Business School. Werner Erhard's Barbados Group publications can be found at SSRN. Some members of the Barbados Group are affiliated with Landmark Education.
In 2006, Erhard appeared in the documentary Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard. The film was co-produced by Robyn Symon and Walter Maksym, who had earlier served as Erhard's attorney in the lawsuit against CBS.
Werner Erhard was featured in the 2002 British documentary by Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self, episode part 3 of 4. This segment of the video discusses the est Training in detail, and includes interviews with est graduates John Denver, and Jerry Rubin.
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